¿What stands behind the concept of Dark Kitchens?
Before analyzing different aspects of this phenomenon, will we define the concept of a ghost restaurant or dark kitchen. What is the major difference between this food service business model? To start with, it’s not open to the public and is only aimed at selling food through digital platforms such as Delivery: Glovo, Just Eat, Deliveroo, UberEats, etc.
This type of business is located in strategic areas of big cities with a good communication structure which allows to provide fast and efficient service of food delivery.
The same type of foodservice exists in the United States. However, it has been baptized as Cloud Kitchens. These types of kitchens operate only virtually and food is prepared in places or restaurant which don’t offer a dine-in or takeaway option.
Statistics and turnover
As it is evident, the increase of Dark Kitchens currently in big cities is caused by the enormous growth of the delivery sector (regardless of the type of product) and the great demand for the food delivery service. The demand has been so high that in 5 years this service will represent 20% of the sales in the global restoration.
According to Statista, this sector invoices more than 60,000 million dollars annually between the US, Europe, and Asia. In Spain, according to the Association of Restoration Chains only in the last year, the sales have increased by 48% and 73 million deliveries, which represents 3% of the turnover of the Spanish restoration.
The history of Dark Kitchens (to the present …)
Although it is a very early sector in our country, it already has been extended into the following three types:
- Specialized Dark kitchen: those businesses in which there is only one “virtual restaurant” which specializes in one type of cuisine. In Spain, we can find Instamaki group (specialized in sushi) located in cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and Málaga. There are also minor businesses such as Dark Pizza serving in Bilbao.
- Dark Kitchen Center: these are businesses installed in stores of considerable dimensions in which several independent restaurants operate, each of them with their own work and storage area. These types of establishments usually work with the main delivery platforms.
A clear example of this type of Dark Kitchen is the German company Keatz, with two locations in Barcelona and between 6 or 7 different brands of restaurants. In the same city of Barcelona, there is also Kraving Kitchen, with Vietnamese and Mediterranean restaurants. In these, unlike the rest, customers can come to find their own order, in addition to ordering it through delivery platforms.
- Exclusive Dark Kitchen Center: the business model is the same as in the previous case, however, the restaurants that are located on the premises only work for a delivery company. This is the case of COOCCIÓ, a store located in the center of the city of Barcelona, which serves as a gastronomic incubator for Glovo.
Consequences of the business boom
An increasing demand and a great potential of this niche market induced delivery sector companies such as UberEats or Deliveroo to invest in obsolete real estate and transform them into kitchens or warehouses.
Uber- one of the rail hailing companies, through the venture capital fund “10100” (owned by its founder Travis Kalanick) in response to a high demand created UberEats through 2 independent projects: CloudKitchens and CloudRetail (gastronomic delivery and retail online). These companies are responsible for the rehabilitation of spaces for the installation of Dark Kitchens or online retail stores.
This last initiative emerged in a response to the success which Deliveroo previously registered with Deliveroo Editions project in spaces converted into Dark Kitchens centers where the existing restaurants can rent a work area to provide delivery service.
This type of kitchen serves to decongest the kitchens of traditional restaurants where chefs of a not very high position in collaboration with chefs of the traditional restaurant carry out this service by standardizing the food production processes and reducing the staff costs.
Finally, it should be noted that companies from this sector, with a relatively short history, mutate strategically with greater ease than in other more traditional industries. This is the case of Keatz which after the success of its two investors in Spain is turning to an economically less demanding model as a result of the agreement with other external restaurants offering food delivery service of the brands that Keatz has in its portfolio (Gringo, Ono Poké, Moody Monkey, etc.)
Having seen all different aspects of the Dark Kitchen phenomenon, is it possible that the Delivery-Dark Kitchen service will replace the traditional model of restaurants?